Decoding Wagner: An Invitation to His World of Music Drama (includes 2 CDs)

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9781574670974: Decoding Wagner: An Invitation to His World of Music Drama (includes 2 CDs)

(Unlocking the Masters). This guide aims to unlock the world of Richard Wagner and his works, his monumental achievements, and, ultimately, the great emotional power inherent in his art. Decoding Wagner presents a straightforward, fresh overview of what Wagner attempted to achieve with his "artwork of the future." Two accompanying full-length CDs illustrate and trace his growth as a composer.

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In the voluminous Wagner bibliography, Thomas May's book occupies a special place. Concise but remarkably information-packed and accompanied by two CDs of excerpts, it is addressed to those who seek a deeper understanding of Wagner's operas. The controversies--artistic, human and moral--generated by Wagner's innovative ideas and reprehensible behavior frequently obscure the greatness of his achievements. May performs an extraordinary feat: although unflinchingly aware of Wagner's arrogance, self-aggrandizement, duplicity, faithlessness, hedonism, greed, political opportunism, chauvinism, and anti-Semitism, he communicates boundless admiration for the composer and passionate love for his works. Suggesting that the very schism between Wagner's flawed character and idealistic aspirations inspired "monumentally stirring meditations on the contradictory range of human experience," he correlates and reconciles his "monstrous ego" with his sublime genius. The evolution of Wagner's operas, from his early and incomplete attempts to the late, often extensively revised masterpieces, culminated in a lofty artistic vision: the "total artwork" which, combining all the arts, would result in heightened experience and spiritual elevation. Wagner wrote his own texts, considering poetry and music inseparable and himself equally master of both, an assessment not universally shared. May takes the librettos very seriously, following them from their historical or mythological origin to their final form with formidable but unobtrusive erudition. Among his references are the Buddha, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Thomas Mann, and T.S. Eliot, and he must have read everything about Wagner as well as Wagner's own often repellent autobiographical, theoretical, and political writings (which make one wish he had written nothing but music). May's musical analyses are equally riveting and absorbing. He traces the operas' ever-increasing depth, breadth, and grandeur, the growing importance and masterful use of the unifying leitmotif and the "Wagnerian" orchestra, and the often hidden strands that connect them despite their individual uniqueness. Opera lovers spurred by May's book to hear these works performed could not wish for a more knowledgeable, illuminating, and inspiring guide. --Edith Eisler

Review:

" . . . savvy and concise . . ." -- Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 7, 2005

" . . . well written and clearly presented." -- American Record Guide, July/August 2005

". . . [an] excellent critical overview . . . you can't beat the pairing of the written word accompaniment with CD examples." -- The Bookwatch, April 2005

". . . interesting and intriguing . . ." -- Opera Opera, July 2005

". . . this primer leads the way to an appreciation for [Wagner] and his music." -- Forbes FYI, Spring 2005

"May offers compelling evidence of [Wagner's] complexity, alongside direct and illuminating discussions of the composer's most famous works." -- La Scena Musicale, July/August 2005

"This book is likely to make neophytes and connoisseurs alike eager to reexperience the Wagner operas on an ongoing basis." -- Opera News, June 2005

"Thomas May lives up to the promise of Decoding Wagner by de-mystifying the operas. . . ." -- Rocky Mountain News, January 29, 2005

"an approachable guide to appreciating the composer's operatic genius. . . . a generous selection of Wagner's music is included . . ." -- Operatoday.com

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